Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

January 2011

Ways You Can Use QR Codes

Even though QR Codes have been in existence since the mid-90s, they’re only now become hip. Fashionable. Tres chic. (whatever that means)…

And if you put your mind to it, you can come up with all sorts of ways you can use QR Codes.

First, review the blog post where you can find out all about QR Codes and how they work and how to create them.

Then listen to the podcast interview with Marie-Claire Andrews of where she discusses ways to use QR Codes.

Then brainstorm a bit on how you might use a QR Code to assist your other marketing efforts. Here are some brain-starters…

  • Tradeshow rugs or flooring: easy to put a graphic on a custom piece of flooring. Putting it on a rug will inspire people to pull out their smartphones and capture the QR Code to see where it leads.
  • “The Mechanic” movie poster
  • Business cards: have too much information to put on your business card, like Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/YouTube links, and more…? Create a web page on your blog or website that has all of that, along with a bio, photo, or whatever else you deem appropriate.
  • Cupcakes!
  • Storefronts: mention a freebie if you scan the QR Code.
  • Best Buy label
  • T-shirts: I saw a QR Code t-shirt for sale online (just search any t-shirt site); upload your QR Code, include an invitation such as “Scan me to win!” and wear it proudly while people stop to scan you!
  • Like” us on Facebook
  • Marketing materials: Of course you can insert a QR Code in virtually any piece of marketing. The trick is to offer an incentive to scan: free download, limited-time product discount, exclusive offer, etc.
  • At a tradeshow: link the QR code to a ‘secret’ site where visitors can find such things as streaming video of the show, a virtual tradeshow website, special offers, photos, and more.
  • A few more ideas: business advertising, clues for a treasure hunt, an artist manifesto, link to a non-profit’s donation page, and a bunch more on this cool collection of QR Code ideas.

If you search for QR Codes on Google, there are just a million+ results. I would bet that in another year there will be five times as many. QR codes are exploding. The more companies that get involved will spur even more companies to get involved. It’s like a snowball rolling down hill. Or like global warming. Except for the snowball thing.

Losing Your Smartphone – What Next?

When you carry a smartphone, it’s sometimes easy to forget that you’re carrying a lot of information that thieves would love to get their hands on: phone records, contacts, email passwords, social networking profiles with username and passwords, access to online banking and passwords…and much more.

Just knowing that makes you a little more aware when you’re bopping around your house or town or your job.

But what about when you’re in a faraway city at a convention or tradeshow? You’re one of millions of folks out there on the road every year with a smartphone and those thieves and hackers are looking for you to make a mistake. You set the phone down momentarily at a restaurant or check-in counter at a hotel and the next thing you know it’s gone. When travelling, you’re much more susceptible to theft for the simple reason that your attention is often elsewhere: you’re in a strange place; you’re trying to do things you normally wouldn’t do (find a rental car or shuttle or check into a hotel; read a map, catch a train, etc). Once in Chicago a couple of years ago I actually left my phone on the taxi. The driver had given me his car and it took a few moments to track him down and have him bring it back…so I was lucky!

But if you lose your smartphone, what now?

Before that happens, educate yourself to the dangers of either losing your phone or getting it hacked. Read articles such as ‘Smartphones: The New Hacker Frontier”

Everyone should have security apps for a their smartphone. Here’s a collection of those apps for smartphones, netbooks, laptops or PDA’s.

PC World had a very useful article on keeping your smartphone safe recently.

If your phone is stolen, one option would be to remotely wipe the data off of your phone.  Most phones also allow you to require a password when the phone is started up.

There are apps that help you track a stolen iPhone, too.  In fact, iLocalis is considered a great app for doing just that.  EHow also offers an article on ways you can track a stolen smartphone.

Bottom line: Don’t lose your smartphone! It’s not just a phone. It’s a lot of your business and personal life wrapped up in a small, easy-to-misplace package. And the more prepared you are to deal with accidentally losing it, the better off you’ll be if it actually happens.

Podcast Interview: Darren Hart, Tradeshow Magician and Presenter

A few weeks ago Darren Hart reached out to me and offered to submit a blog post that he’d written. It was a good post and I took him up on it. After checking a little deeper on who Darren is, I decided he might be a fun interview. After all, Darren has what I think is an interesting occupation: he uses magic combined with sales skills to generate leads for his tradeshow clients.

Darren and I got on the phone recently and discussed his approach to tradeshow marketing using magic in his presentations.

7 Social Media Things to do That Your Competition is Probably Forgetting

In the marketing game, staying ahead of your competition is a key to being top of mind to your market. With social media adding yet another facet to your marketing mix, it gets harder and harder to keep track of all of the moving parts.

That’s where being on top of your game and using great tools to make things easier come in handy. Really handy. It puts you a step or two above your competition. They’ll find out sooner or later what you’re doing. By then, hopefully you’ll have moved yet another step or two ahead.

1. Respond in Real-Time

Want to be instantly notified when someone sends you a tweet so you can be sure to get back to them right away if necessary? Set up your smart phone to ping or beep you with a Twitter app. This lets you respond in real-time, which positions you in their mind of being extremely responsive. They feel wanted and loved.

2. Blog Regularly

Show your readers and potential clients that you understand their pain. In the blog you offer solutions, how-to’s, interviews with experts (written/audio/video), industry news and comments and more. By doing so, you’re making the blog attractive to readers. By posting regularly, you’re making it worth their while to come back and visit. If the content is top-notch, you’re making it a ‘don’t-miss’ read.

Snow. Smile.

3. Make Your Facebook Page Work For You

Yeah, pretty much everybody has a Facebook page now. Companies are planting their businesses on Facebook. You should be, too. If you’re not, get it done. If you’re already there, explore how you can make your Facebook page a valuable resource for your readers. Make sure your blog posts are showing up automatically by setting up an RSS feed into your Facebook company page. Offer prizes, special deals, and fresh content (audio/video/written) on your Facebook page that they can’t get anywhere else. Find ways to increase your Facebook fanbase such as these.

4. Stay Educated

Reading great social media websites, such as the Social Media Examiner. Always full of useful resources, insight and tools, the SME helps anyone who’s interested in moving ahead of their competitor. Great stuff, including a recent post on how you can improve your blog by following top tips from top bloggers.

5. Go Mobile

Your audience is mobile. You should be mobile. Smartphones help keep people connected. If you have one, it helps you understand how your market interacts with your online outposts. You can see what they see: how your blog and website looks on a smartphone, how to interact, check-in, post updates, photos and more – all while on the run in an increasingly mobile and active world.

6. Be Active at Shows

Yes, you’re tweeting and posting on Facebook. Maybe even doing a few videos. Can you step up even further and create a virtual tradeshow website? Can you plan on bringing even more heavy-hitters in the industry into your booth to interview on live streaming Internet TV? Don’t bite off more than you can chew…but take a really close look at what you’re capable of. And if you need help, hire it.

7. Have Fun!

Really…are you having fun? Is your competition? If you’re regularly beating them I suspect you’re having more fun than them!

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photo credit: brad montgomery

Using QR Codes at a Tradeshow

One of the most effective methods to get involved in mobile marketing is to create a QR Code and display it openly at a tradeshow. It’s a somewhat familiar-looking graphic widget but not everyone knows exactly what it is or how it works.

Invented in 1994 by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave, the QR (Quick Response) code has graduated from a simple two-dimensional code used to track parts in vehicle manufacturing to much larger use. More and more companies are finding ways to use them in tradeshow marketing by including codes on booth graphics and handouts. One main use of the QR code seems to be to direct the viewer to a website where they are introduced to company-related information.

It’s easy to include a QR Code and it makes sense for at least a couple of reasons: first, it’s a great way to reduce the amount of printed material that you have to carry around and pass out. It reduces printed products that may end up on landfills or recycling bins. Secondly, the QR Code is still new enough that the use of it positions your company as a leader – or at least very sensitive to the spirit of reducing printed materials. By steering your visitor to a website to download PDFs, view videos or other material, you’re seen as much ‘greener’ than competitors that may still be handing out pamphlets (so last century!).

Scan this QR Code!
QR Code for Tradeshow Marketing Newsletter

Third, it’s cool looking!

In the Wikipedia entry on the QR Code, you can see that marketers are making use of the symbol in many ways: “Media where QR codes have been deployed include: billboard ads, in-store displays, event ticketing and tracking, trade-show management, business cards, print ads, contests, direct mail campaigns, websites, email marketing, and couponing just to name a few. QR codes are of particular interest to marketers, giving them the “ability to measure response rates with a high degree of precision”[20] allowing for easier ROI (return on investment) calculation, thus helping justify spending on marketing budgets.”

If you want to create a QR Code, there’s no cost. Even though Denso-Wave owns the patent, they are choosing not to enforce the patent rights. Search online for ‘create QR code generator’ and you’ll find several applications that allow you to create your own code in a few seconds.

Once the code is created, you can insert it in any marketing materials you may have.

To read the phone, the most common way is with a camera phone with an app or the software that can decode it.

To create a code, there are limits to the amount of text you’re able to insert:

QR Code data capacity:

  • Numeric only Max. 7,089 characters
  • Alphanumeric Max. 4,296 characters
  • Binary (8 bits) Max. 2,953 bytes

There are more creative uses of the QR code being developed. Businesses are linking to discount coupons, games, treasure hunt clues, mail-in rebates and more. Check here, here and here.

And if you want to see what a social media crowd thinks of the QR code and grab some more ideas, check this Facebook page.

The Power of Attraction

guest post by Darren Hart of

Before we get any further, let me warn you that this not about imagining your way to a shiny red bicycle. This is about using an attraction to get attention. When done properly, attractions can be an incredible tool. Done poorly, they are a catastrophic waste of time and money.

Startup screen - SuomiTV iPad

I was recently at a trade show and the booth across from the one I was working was giving away an iPad. As people walked by, a man stood in the isle and invited them to fill out a card with their contact information. With any luck, their card would be the lucky one chosen after the show, making them the proud owner of Apple’s latest have to have creation.

Almost no discussion was taking place regarding how that company could improve the lives of the people stuffing their names in the box. They just spent the day advertising Apple’s product and brand. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when they started working that list of names. I suspect the conversation began with “Hello, this is xyz window company. You gave us your name at the trade show and we are calling to set an appointment to have a look at your old widows and replace them with nice new ones.” To which the reply might have been “Dude, I live in an apartment. CLICK.”

I agree that iPads are big fun and hours of entertainment, but I think giving one away at that trade show was a mistake. I think the company was saying that the iPad is way more interesting than anything their company has to offer and the only thing they could think of to get you to part with your phone number was to bribe you with the remote possibility of winning a toy.

The truth is, that to someone who needs windows, that company’s message would have been as interesting as the iPad. If they had created an attraction built around their product, made it interesting with showmanship marketing and targeted people who needed their services, they would have been a lot more effective. If they had done nothing more than given away a free window they would have been better off. At least everyone stuffing their number in the box would have been people hoping to win a window. That seems like an easier sale than someone hoping to win an iPad.

I don’t care what business you are in, it will be interesting to your customers when presented properly. Make your message the attraction and you’ll get the results you want. Who knows, you might even get that shiny red bicycle you’ve been dreaming of.

Darren Hart is trade show presenter that builds crowds using showmanship marketing. For more traffic at your next trade and to download a free eBook visit Darren at
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iPad photo credit: Sami Niemelä

Tradeshow Collaboration Marketing

How can you work with a partner at a tradeshow? What can collaboration do to cut your tradeshow marketing costs and help spread your company’s name around a bit more?

While there are some benefits to be gained by working with partners in any endeavor, there are trade-offs to consider as well.

Share a Booth

Let’s say you’re a small company that struggles to come up with money for booth space and exhibit rental. If this is the case you might consider contacting a company that, while not a direct competitor, is at least in your industry and would benefit from exhibiting at the same show.

Mosaic, 20 Feb 2005

By renting the booth space together, you’re splitting the cost of both the space and the exhibit. Of course, you only get half a booth. Depending on your offerings, however, that might be a good fit and a good way to get your name out into the marketplace.

Another benefit comes when staffing the booth. By paring down the booth size and splitting with a partner, you need less people overall. While you would obviously want to have your side of the booth staffed, in some shows and situations one benefit would be to spell the other guy while he’s on a break.

Promote Each Other’s Products

Here’s a promotion that I’ve seen done successfully. Find another 4 or 5 exhibitors that are complementary to your company – but not direct competitors – and create a traffic-generation promotion. Create a map of the show floor highlighing the five participating booths, print it on bright paper, give each booth a stamp. Offer prizes from each exhibitor to be drawn from all maps that are stamped by all exhibitors and submitted. This encourages more traffic to each booth. Of course it’s up to you to take advantage of the additional traffic with your own offerings.

Social Media Pumping

Whether you’re on Twitter or Facebook, you can easily work out a similar promotion. However, instead of doing it on-site, do it online. Each vendor sets up a series of tweets via to drive traffic to their own – and their collaborator’s – booth. By doing this, you’re taking advantage of each other’s community, exposing all of the separate exhibitor’s online communities to all of the others.

Team Up To Impress

If you have a partner company that you work well with, float the idea of doing a ‘team dinner/party’ to expose each of the company’s to the other’s community. Company A invites a dozen or so clients, Company B does the same. The two companies split the tab. Everybody gets to know everyone else. Imagine if you could ramp this up to three, four or five companies.


With all of the various companies that exhibit at any given show, how can you leverage the event to help your company and assist another company for the greater good? Can you come up with a single product together? Can you combine two products for a single offering? A real estate company might team with a home staging company to offer a special deal at a show. A software designer might team with one of his clients to create a custom version of the software for a larger, different market.

There’s really no end to the amount of ways that you can collaborate with other exhibitors to bring both (or all) of you more business.

Get on your thinkin’ cap!

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photo credit: Genista

What Gets You Noticed at a Tradeshow?

After walking the floor of many a chaotic tradeshow, I’m always interested (and somewhat amused) by what catches my eye. And what doesn’t.

So what works to bring ’em in? What is like honey to the fly?

Here, in no particular order, are several things that made me stop and take a look at a product or service:

  • demonstrations: a professional presenter with a 5-7 minute presentation can do wonders for a tradeshow exhibit
  • eye candy: this can be large colorful graphics, something moving (rotating or spinning graphics/wheels/etc), booth babes, anything that says “STOP! LOOK! NOW!” Admittedly, the booth babes drew my eyes but rarely connect me to an actual product!

  • What Gets You Noticed at a Tradeshow

    celebrity: whether it’s Muriel Hemingway or Dr. Andrew Weil or anyone else that catches an eye, a celebrity gives your booth credibility and power – at least to a certain amount of the audience.

  • unusual product: a new or unusual product, even in a lousy-looking booth, can be enough to draw me in.
  • unusual booth design: a stellar, spare, unusual booth design is a very attractive piece. If it’s unusual enough it’ll have people stopping regardless of the product. Again, the product has to be worth the attention or the booth design fails. But with the right combination, POW!
  • giveaways or free samples: a typical giveaway gets me to stop for a heartbeat. A cool/unusual/clever giveaway that ties in with the product gets me thinking. If it’s damn yummy I will come back for more and figure out where to buy the product when I get home.
  • smile: a pleasant smile and non-threatening greeting from a booth staffer does wonders in getting people to stop and examine your offerings.
  • action in the booth: video or audio interviews draw a crowd. A simple camera/microphone set-up makes people curious. Curiosity helps draw a crowd.

The initial goal of your booth is to get a visitor to stop. Once they’ve stopped, they’ve mentally committed at least a smidgen of time to your offerings. From that moment, it’s up to your (highly trained) booth staff to positively engage them, qualify or disqualify them, grab contact info if interested and move them into the sales funnel.

Easy, right?

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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